Should My Kitchen Cabinets Go to the Ceiling?

There are a lot of big decisions to make when planning for new cabinets in your kitchen. From color and construction style to the layout and organizational features you want to incorporate. Let's talk about a cabinet question that may seem daunting but is actually pretty easy to tackle - should your cabinetry go to the ceiling? 

This is a topic that comes up at one point or another during the design process and the truth is the answer is solely based on three main points: Ceiling height, ceiling details, and aesthetic preference. Let's talk about how any one of these topics can really dictate whether your cabinets should go to the ceiling.

Ceiling Height

The height of the ceiling in your kitchen is probably the most straightforward indicator of how tall your kitchen cabinets should be.

Eight feet is probably the shortest ceiling height you will encounter and used to be the standard height. Because of this most stock cabinets were designed to accommodate this height in one of two ways.  

  1. Cabinetry including trim (crown molding) goes all the way to the ceiling with one wall cabinet. 
  2. The cabinetry including trim does not go to the ceiling. Typically, the wall cabinets and trim will be just below the ceiling. Any house crown molding will continue around the room, above the cabinetry.

If your ceiling height is nine or ten feet, the cabinets can again be treated one of two ways:

  1. Cabinetry including trim goes all the way to the ceiling but in this instance, the cabinetry will likely need to be stacked. Meaning you will have something like a 36" wall cabinet with a 12" - 18" high smaller cabinet on top of it. 
  2. The cabinetry does not go to the ceiling and there is a large open area between the top of the cabinetry and the ceiling. It is not uncommon to see people decorate this open area with knick-knacks or plants. 

If your ceilings are any higher than ten feet, I would not recommend taking cabinetry to the ceiling. Functionally speaking cabinetry higher than this would be extremely difficult to get to and would essentially be purely decorative. Aesthetically, I find if cabinets get too tall, they can really overwhelm the space. 

Ceiling Details

If there is a soffit that can be removed, they are usually 12”H and the bottom is at seven feet with and 8 foot ceiling, you would typically mount 30”H cabinets below the soffit.

Beams and other architectural details can add another layer of confusion to the topic of cabinet heights. Should cabinetry intersect with the details such as beams or not? In my opinion cabinetry in a kitchen with ceiling beams should not go to the ceiling. In most cases, ceiling beams are just decorative and do not actually offer any structural support.

However, if you want your space to feel authentic you have to consider that if the beams were in the home before the cabinets (because they are supporting the upstairs or the roof) then the cabinets and beams would not be integrated, and the cabinets would be installed below. Plus, by installing the cabinets below the beams you are allowing both details to have their moment individually as opposed to muddying them together. 

Aesthetic Preference

Cabinets to the ceiling will give the kitchen more of a built-in look, a lot of homeowners will raise up the crown with an additional trim to get to the ceiling. One common concern from customers is dust collecting in between the cabinets and the ceiling which wont be an issue if the cabinets go to the ceiling.

When it comes to cabinet heights there is no right or wrong, making the right decision just requires a good dose of consideration for the space that you have, the storage that you need and the overall look you are going for.


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